Marchers on May 6th demanding British citizenship for all migrant workers
Marchers on May 6th demanding British citizenship for all migrant workers

Labour deputy leader contender Jon Cruddas is leading a private members debate in Westminster Hall at the House of Commons, on, ‘Regularisation of Migrant Workers’ today.

The debate is part of the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ campaign.

Campaigners are holding a vigil this morning outside the House of Commons from 7:45am-9:00am, to draw attention to the debate and show public support for the ‘regularisation’ of migrant workers.

As of last Monday, 80 MPs had joined the call for ‘Regularisation’ rights.

On the eve of the debate, the TUC published a new survey showing that the British economy is benefiting from the influx of migrant workers to the UK.

The TUC study, ‘The economics of migration’ published on Tuesday, shows that contrary to far right accusations that immigrants are a drain on the welfare state, migrant workers are paying more in taxes than the value of the public services they receive.

The TUC found that across the economy the arrival of migrant workers has not depressed jobs or wages, and although there is limited evidence of some local effect on wages and employment for low-skilled workers, so far low-skilled workers have not lost out thanks to the vibrant economy.

‘To continue with that good performance we need to ensure unscrupulous employers stop taking advantage of migrant workers’ lack of knowledge of their rights and poor English’, the report says.

The TUC report adds that the solution is to crack down on the minority of bad employers by properly enforcing employment rights such as the minimum wage and closing loopholes such as the poor protection enjoyed by agency workers, not by taking it out on the migrant workers suffering the exploitation.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Migrant workers are making a substantial contribution to Britain’s economy, and some sectors would collapse if they were removed overnight.

‘They haven’t caused mass unemployment or held wages down as some would have us believe.

‘But we do not do enough to protect vulnerable workers, whether migrant or indigenous, from exploitation.

‘If migrant workers are treated fairly and paid a decent wage they can only add to the economy, and pose no threat to the livelihoods of the rest of the workforce.

‘The availability of migrant workers should not stop employers or government helping unemployed and disadvantaged UK citizens into work, nor stop efforts to give the low skilled the new skills they need to improve their job security and help them get better jobs.’

The TUC report shows there is very little evidence that migration has had a negative impact on the distribution of jobs and wages.

To ensure this continues to be the case and that low-skilled workers do not find themselves pushed out of the market, the TUC believes the supply of jobs to all workers – and services for displaced workers and unemployed people to get even better jobs – needs to be increased.

The report also finds little evidence that immigration has driven down wages.

TUC research shows effective enforcement of the UK minimum wage must be a greater priority than it is at present – migrant workers who are paid less than the minimum wage are being exploited and the emergence of a large group of employers habitually breaking the law could undermine the minimum wage’s effectiveness for all workers.

The TUC says: ‘The Low Pay Commission and the government must make special efforts to make sure that the value of the minimum wage does not fall relative to pay generally.

‘The arrival of migrant workers is not problem-free as any unplanned population change can put strains on an area if the social and housing infrastructure cannot cope.

‘The TUC argues that a share of the extra prosperity that migrant workers are contributing to the economy should be used to ensure local public services can deal with new workers.

‘Treasury figures show that migrant workers are responsible for around ten per cent of economic growth.’

The TUC has recently launched a Commission on Vulnerable Employment to investigate the extent of workplace exploitation and consider improvements to the enforcement regime and legal protection available for vulnerable staff.

Exploited workers, including migrant workers, can submit their experiences of working in the UK to a TUC website.

This week is Refugee Week 2007.

Refugee Week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and promote understanding about the reasons why people seek sanctuary.

It happens every year around World Refugee Day, 20 June, and this year takes place 18-24 June.

The Refugee Council is one of several partner agencies who support and fund Refugee Week and the Refugee Week staff are housed and supported at its head office in London.

The week kicked off with Celebrating Sanctuary last Sunday on London’s Southbank.

Celebrating Sanctuary is an annual one day free festival which celebrates London’s refugee communities and the enormous contribution they make to the cultural life of the capital.

It showcased the work of musicians, artists, dancers and storytellers who performed across five spaces on the South Bank.

The festival offered Londoners a chance to taste the cultural fruits of sanctuary and to enjoy and appreciate the evolving contribution of refugees to London and the UK.

London’s Comedy Store held a special evening for the Refugee Council on Monday, featuring a top lineup of comedian’s including Frankie Boyle and Ian Stone.

The event launched this year’s Refugee Week and raised money for the Refugee Council and its work.

Every year during Refugee Week hundreds of events are organised across the UK.

In 2006, there were over 450 small and large events, ranging from big music festivals and art exhibitions to political debates, film screenings, conferences, school activities, sports and community events.

Between April and May 2007 the Refugee Week Team organised a photography competition on the theme of Encounters.

The images presented on the Refugee Week website have been short-listed as the best and highly commended entries for the competition.